One week after a fire destroyed their own church on Rosemary Drive in Bonita Springs, the congregation of Tabernaculo de Alabanza has found a temporary home in the sanctuary of another.
First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs opened its doors to the Hispanic Pentecostal church to hold Sunday evening services for the next six weeks.
"It's not easy using somebody else's space," said Doug Pratt, pastor of First Presbyterian. "But, this will give them a chance to pool their resources and find another place to worship."
Pratt knows firsthand what it is like to need the help of others. His church suffered from a fire in February and other area churches allowed First Presbyterian use of their space.
"We felt since we've been helped by other churches, we needed to help them," Pratt said.
Gabriel Gramajo, the pastor of Tabernaculo for 21 years, is grateful for the space where nearly 300 members from of his church could worship together Sunday. His congregation had outgrown its building across town, having to hold two services on Sundays to fit all of its 500 members.
Singing and audible prayer filled most of the 2 ½ hour service. Men and women held their hands in the air with their eyes closed. The sanctuary wasn’t full, but sounded like it. Many children slept on the purple padded pews while others were held in the arms of their parents. Before Gramajo addressed the congregation, the children were taken to classrooms down the hall for the remainder of the evening.
In the Spanish sermon held, Gramajo attempted to lift his members' spirits by telling them after a storm, there is peace. He is encouraged that even though they don't have a building, people still came to church in a new place.
Amelia Yanez, 48, a member of Tabernaculo for the past four years, isn't concerned where church is held.
"The building may have been burned, but the church is us," said Yanez.
"We are seeing this as an opportunity," Gramajo said about the fire in their church. "It was in our plans to expand our building, but we never imagined it would happen this way."
Gramajo said the congregation is currently looking for a place to rent that will serve as their new home until they can build something better on Rosemary Drive.
"We have peace," said Araon Ramirez, 48, a truck driver and leader in the church. "Just because our church burned down, doesn't mean we are stuck."
Ramirez said he appreciates First Presbyterian allowing them to hold service in their building. "Being Hispanic, sometimes we feel neglected by the community," Ramirez said. "So, it's an honor to have this church open its doors to us."